Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seven Deadly Challenges at the Weight Room
Seven Deadly Challenges at the Weight Room
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

How is your work-out working out for you these days? Studies show that many people who start at the gym with every good intention are nowhere to be found within a few months. Why is it that so many well-intended people drop out and disappear from fitness? My hunch is that people drop out from going to the gym for similar reasons that they drop out from going to church. They may find the times inconvenient, the child care inadequate, the music too loud, too soft, too slow, or too fast, the temperature too hot or too cold, the people too cold or intrusive, the instructor/pastor too busy or controlling.

Virtually everyone that I know nowadays on the North Shore believes in the value of keeping physically fit. It has been drilled into us by our doctors, teachers, media, and family. Yet so many of us fall short of our personal health goals. I sense that a lot of people have transferred their guilt about not attending church enough to a new guilt about not attending the weight room enough. Guilt, shame, and fear paralyze us in our unhealthy procrastination and avoidance of physical and spiritual growth. Guilt, shame and fear feed our addictions and unhealthy life choices. I have known people who felt so guilty about not attending the gym or church that they have overeaten, over-drank, and over-indulged. More guilt is not the solution to our health issues.

So how can we be set free from our spiritual and physical couch-potato tendencies? Dr. Gil Stieglitz, our ACiC Coach, says that a great way to get healthy is to memorize the seven deadly sins and then daily measure our current behaviour by those seven criteria. The first deadly sin/challenge is Pride, which Dr. Gil defines as ‘feelings of superiority, self-absorption, and lack of teachability.’ Sometimes people don’t make it to the gym or church because we have become self-satisfied and unwilling to grow.

The second deadly sin is Envy which Dr. Gil defines as ‘the desire for what belongs to others’. I have been guilty of that sin many times at the gym. Why is it taking me so long to get in shape physically or spiritually when others around me seem so healthy? Sometimes the puny size of my weights or my prayer life can tempt me to not bother to try.

The third deadly sin is Anger which Dr. Gil defines as ‘being blocked from a goal, irritated, seething’. The person we usually feel most angry at is ourselves, angry that we are not losing weight quickly enough, not improving fast enough, angry that it is taking so long to become Christ-like and loving. You may have heard the angry comment that the church or gym is full of hypocrites, to which I say ‘there is always room for one more hypocrite’.

The fourth deadly sin is Lust, which is far more than just sexual. It is really about the need to have it all our way immediately. Many of us give up on the gym and church, because it is taking too long to achieve our goals. We want it all right now! Getting healthy takes time!

The fifth deadly sin is Sloth which Dr. Gil defines as ‘laziness, working with a minimum effort, procrastination’. Going to Church or the gym requires effort, time, and money. It is often tempting to give in to our feelings of tiredness, discouragement and fear. Why bother to try? The Tempter wants us to be physically and spiritually healthy, as long we do it next month, not this month.

The sixth deadly sin is Gluttony which Dr. Gil defines as ‘overindulgence, addiction, seeking comfort’. Many people feel so embarrassed about their body or soul that they won’t even try. It’s just too painful.

The seventh deadly sin is Greed which Dr. Gil defines as ‘longing after money and things’. Greedy people will refuse to go to church or the gym, claiming that ‘all the church/gym wants is your money’. In fact the gym and church are there for our health, and our health is worth every penny that we invest. What use is wealth without health? See you at God’s Gym!

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

...Goes before a Fall

....Goes Before A Fall
-an article previously pubished in the Deep Cove Crier

What goes before a fall? The Good Book says ‘Pride’. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) What is pride, anyway? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines pride as ‘overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, merits’ and ‘proud’ as ‘haughty, arrogant’.

Roget’s Thesaurus speaks of the double-edged nature of pride. Many people use the term to refer to satisfaction in their children’s accomplishments, or to self-respect. But Roget’s Thesaurus reminds that pride is also connected to “arrogance, haughtiness, insolence, loftiness, lordliness, overbearingness, presumption, superiority, narcissism, vanity, egotism.” Hence we see the origin of the 1960’s slang phrase “ego trip”.

Why is pride spoken of as the first of the seven deadly sins? Perhaps because pride causes us to forget our Maker: “your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery.” Pride is basically non-productive and unteachable: “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice”. (Proverbs 13:10) Pride is self-destructive: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”(Proverbs 11:10) Pride is the spirit of the mocker: “The proud and arrogant man-"Mocker" is his name; he behaves with overweening pride.” (Proverbs 21:24). In High School, many ‘Big Men on Campus’ become proud and mocking while they are ‘the big fish in a small pond’. But things change when they go into the real world. Pride goes before a fall.
The most difficult thing about pride is that it is like bad breath: easy to detect in others, and hard to detect in ourselves. Pride has to do with a sense of entitlement, that we deserve everything that we have, that the world owes us a living. The most famous human being once said in Mark 7:22 that pride comes from within our hearts and actually makes us unclean (non-kosher). Pride separates from others, by seducing us into thinking that we are better than others. Pride is the root cause of every caste system, every class system, and every system of racial hatred. That is why the Good Book says: “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16) Pride goes before a fall.

Pride makes it very difficult to admit our need for anyone else, even God himself. Pride feeds the illusion that we are completely independent and self-sufficient. That is why Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s Kingdom. Yet real breakthrough happens when we admit our need, our helpless and powerless over life’s struggles. CS Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman, resisted her need for God for many years. She writes: “God had been stalking me for a very long time, waiting for his moment; he crept nearer so silently that I never knew he was there. Then, all at once, he sprang. For the first time in my life I felt helpless; for the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, 'the master of my fate'.”

Pride and humility are total opposites. That is why both James and Peter quote Proverbs 3:10 that “God opposes and resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Let me ask you a question: Do we really want the Maker of the Universe to be opposing and resisting us? Yet that is what is guaranteed if we don’t deal with the pride issue. God will resist us at work, at home, in society. Pride may not be a big deal to us, but it certainly is to God. Why is God so opposed to pride? Because it cripples our ability to really love others around us. As the famous poem in 1st Corinthians 13 puts it, love is not proud. Why are so many people successful in business and failures at home? Pride goes before a fall.

Pride, like alcohol addiction, is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It is almost impossible to destroy head-on. The secret to taming one’s pride is gratitude and thanksgiving. As John Fischer puts it, “a thankful heart cancels out pride and arrogance. No need to judge other people when you are thankful for who you are. No need to measure yourself by and compare yourself to others when you are thankful for what God has done in your life.” Gratitude is a deep sense that life is a gift from a gracious giver. Gratitude is best expressed by the ancient words: “All things come from You, O Lord, and of your own have we given You.” My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us will gratefully lay our pride and self-sufficiency down at the foot of our Maker.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

As Sick as our Secrets

We're as sick as our secrets
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column

There's an oft-heard saying in the recovery community: “We're as sick as our secrets.” Over the years, I have met many people in abusive situations who have paid a great price to eventually extricate themselves from the vicious cycle of manipulation and recrimination. Sexual and physical abuse, in particular, scars the victim deeply. Often the victims falsely blame themselves. Recovery from abuse involves breaking the conspiracy of silence and deception perpetrated by abusers. Only the truth, however painful, can really set us free. Secrecy keeps us chained to our abusers.

At the heart of the ‘twelve steps’, in Step Four and Five, is the willingness to break the power of secrecy by admitting to God, yourself, and another person the exact nature of how you have wronged other people. I have done many ‘Fifth Steps’ for others over the past twenty-four years. It is always such a privilege. I feel like I grow so much through this opportunity. I notice, however, that ‘Fifth Steps’ are very difficult in our secretive, victim-based culture. Many people want to come to me and admit the exact nature of how they have been wronged, but not how they have wronged other people. Until we can open up and get such things off our chest, we are still stuck with guilt, recrimination, and self-doubt. We really are as sick as our secrets.

The Good Book tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. I have found that sharing deeply my heart with another caring, listening person can be profoundly liberating. That is why we are encouraged by James, Jesus’ brother, to ‘confess our sins to each other and pray for each other that we may be healed.’ I have a number of friends who have recently had the courage to go see Bonnie Chatwin, a North Shore Pastoral & Clinical Counselor . It was not at all easy for them to do this, but I was amazed by the breakthroughs that they have achieved. How much do we want to be well? Often the price of being well is giving up our obsessive need for independence and secrecy, and beginning to trust another person with our life story.

We as Canadians live in a culture that has become more secretive and private. The vast majority of Canadians still believe in God, prayer, and Jesus’ resurrection, but such faith concerns have largely gone into the closet. There is a widespread perception that faith is so personal and private that it cannot be mentioned publicly.

The recent Da Vinci Code fad fits totally into that way of thinking. It implicitly teaches that true spirituality is about dark hidden secrets that only the elite may know about: secrets allegedly hidden in Da Vinci’s paintings, secrets covered by an alleged secret society named the Priory of Sion, secrets about Mary Magdalene and Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden. Over one hundred million North Americans have either read the Da Vinci Code book or seen the movie. There is something in us that is drawn to secret knowledge and secret passageways. But is secrecy really the way to health and life? Is secrecy really the key to genuine spirituality?

The most famous person in the world once said: “I have spoken openly to the world...I said nothing in secret.” (John 18:20) Jesus also said that “whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed or secret is meant to be brought out into the open.” (Matthew 4:22) Rabbi Saul/Paul, who was Jesus’ most famous disciple, commented: “we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, we set forth the truth plainly...” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Contrary to the claims of the Da Vinci Code, Christianity has no secret codes, no secret initiation rites, no secret vows. Jesus said nothing in secret. Jesus brought everything out in the open. We really are as sick as our secrets.

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

What Child is This?

What Child is This?
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

One of the most favorite Christmas Carols is William Chatterton Dix’s “What Child is This?” At the age of twenty-nine, Dix was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months. He went into a deep depression. Out of this near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including ‘What Child is This?”. Written in 1865, Dix made use of powerful word pictures that still speak one hundred and forty-one years later:

What Child is this who, laid to restOn Mary's lap is sleeping?Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,While shepherds watch are keeping?

What is it about the Christmas story that keeps capturing our hearts year after year? What child is this?

Why does this baby on Mother Mary’s lap win the attention of billions of people every December? Why angels? Why shepherds? What child is this?

One of the strangest things about the Christmas story is the birthplace of the Christmas child in a cattle shed. What kind of place is that to celebrate Christmas? It wasn’t even sanitary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,Where ox and ass are feeding?Good Christians, fear, for sinners hereThe silent Word is pleading.

There is something about the Christmas Child that will not go away, that cannot be avoided, that is inescapably part of Canadian culture.

What Child is this anyways? William Chatterton Dix’s Carol had this response:

This, this is Christ the King,Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,The Babe, the Son of Mary.

What Child is this? Why do wise men still seek him?

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,Come peasant, king to own Him;The King of kings salvation brings,Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This Christmas, may loving hearts enthrone the Christmas Child. May loving hearts welcome this Child into their homes, their lives, their souls.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Monday, November 26, 2007

Conquering the Manana Disease

Conquering the Mañana Disease
Previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

I have been planning on writing this ‘Mañana’ article for several months, but I never got around to it. There is an old saying “Why do today what you can put off ‘till tomorrow?” Latin Americans have coined the expression “mañana disease”, which means to procrastinate and put things off until tomorrow. The term ‘procrastinate’ is literally Latin “for tomorrow (crastinus)”.

Once a year in January, many of us take time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Many of us vow to finish certain important tasks that we have been putting off in 2006. For some of us, it may be finding a new job, getting married, having a child, buying a house, earning a University degree, or restoring a broken relationship.

King Solomon 3,000 years ago had this advice for people struggling with the mañana disease: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)
Solomon challenges each of us to not let fear hold us back: “The sluggard says ‘there is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming in the streets.’ (Proverbs 26:13. Solomon challenges us to not be arrogant and unteachable: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.” (Proverbs 26:16). Solomon challenges us not to become addicted to our pillows: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” (Proverbs 26:14). The ancient word for procrastination is sloth, one of the seven deadly sins. Solomon humorously points out that sloth can become so addictive that nothing gets done: “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.” (Proverbs 26:15).

Why do we procrastinate? I procrastinated for years in writing my second book “Battle for the Soul of Canada.”* Sometimes conquering procrastination seems like too much stress, too much work. I believe that the rise of the ‘living together’ phenomenon in our culture has a lot to do with marital procrastination, especially for men. The average age for men to be married is now 34; for women, it is 31. Many people are waiting for the perfect time to tie the knot, the perfect financial situation, perfect educational situation, perfect housing situation, perfect emotional connectedness. Perfectionism is at the core of the mañana disease. Our grandparents rarely experienced perfect lives. Somehow they were able to get married and get on with their lives.

For many men, the concept of having children is even more threatening than being married. The imagined weight of responsibility can be overwhelming. It is interesting that in the most affluent parts of the world, we are having fewer children and at a much later stage of life. The biological clock is on a collision course with the mañana disease. The irony of Quebec is that its fear of cultural extinction is now becoming a biological reality. Quebec, which had the highest birthrate, now has the lowest birthrate in North America. Mañana has real consequences.

I love the poster I saw recently of a huge polar bear lying prone on an iceberg. The caption goes: “When I get the feeling to do something, I lie down until the feeling goes away.” Charles Dickens in his famous novel David Copperfield wisely observed: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” I have found that later often means never. Life moves on. People die. People move away. Nothing on this earth is permanent.

We all mean very well in our hearts. Sometimes we fail to show it to our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings. It is so easy to put off saying “I’m sorry. I was wrong. How can I make it up to you? I’ll try not to do that again. Will you please forgive me”. It is so easy to let relationships die because of the mañana disease.

When I came to St. Simon’s North Vancouver twenty years ago, I said to our congregation: “If I haven’t offended you yet, you don’t know me well enough.” They all laughed at the time, but later found out that I was dead serious. All of us have the ability to offend others. We even have the ability to offend ourselves. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Women especially are often the hardest on themselves, turning their anger inward. Perhaps conquering the mañana disease may involve looking yourself in the mirror, and with God’s help, forgiving yourself. Many people, who have been through a painful divorce or an abortion, secretly condemn themselves for years. God knows and God forgives, if we will only open our hearts to Him. Say no to the mañana disease.

In this New Year, I wish to challenge those reading this article to seize the day, redeem the time, forgive those who need forgiving, and get on with our life both now and for eternity. Are you ready yet to meet your Maker?

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Inescapable Christmas

The Inescapable Christmas
By the Rev Ed Hird+
-an article for the Dec 2007 Deep Cove Crier

One of the most entertaining book/movies about Christmas commercialization is ‘Skipping Christmas/Christmas with the Cranks’ by John Grisham. As Christmas commercialization will likely always be with us, it is good to have a sense of humour about the silliness that can overtake us. My favorite scene is Luther Crank trying unsuccessfully to drink his tea after an over-the-top Botox session.

For many years, John Grisham has been one of my favorite living authors. Born on February 8, 1955, Grisham is a retired attorney, an ex-politician, and a novelist best known for his works of modern legal drama. Publishers Weekly described Grisham as "the bestselling novelist of the 90s," selling 60,742,289 copies. Grisham is one of few authors, including Tom Clancy, who have sold two million copies on a first printing. His novel The Pelican Brief sold over eleven million copies just in North America. There is no other person who has authored a number one best-selling novel of the year for seven consecutive years (1994-2,000).

Many people do not realize that Grisham is a committed Christian who has spent time in mission service in Brazil. "I started going out in 1993 with a church group from my home church in Oxford, Miss.," he told USA Today. "We went down there for the purpose of constructing a church in this little town sort of in the outback and it was such a rewarding experience that I've done it several times since."

With over 110 million books sold, John Grisham and his wife, Renee, "measure the success of the year on how much we give away," Grisham told USA Today. They have set up a foundation to oversee their giving -- "the bulk of it goes to church and related activities" -- to which "the kids have said, 'Look, don't give it all away.'"

Grisham now wishes "I'd joined the Peace Corps ... for a couple years out of college." He added, "As my years go by I think I'll spend more and more time doing ... mission work, probably in Brazil."

Fittingly, Grisham in his book ‘The Testament’ makes a heroine of an illegitimate daughter Rachel Lane, an unknown missionary in the deepest jungles of Brazil. Troy Phelan, the 10th-richest man in America, outrages all his greedy family by giving Rachel his $11 billion fortune. Ironically, Rachel leads a simple life and couldn't care less about money. The interaction between Nate O’Riley the recovering alcoholic lawyer and Rachel Lane reveals the depth of Grisham’s spiritual convictions. "Nate closed his eyes ... and called God's name. God was waiting. ... In one glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough baggage to crush any three men. ... 'I'm sorry,' he whispered to God. 'Please help me.' As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean."

Grisham explained to USA Today, "Nate tried power and women and booze and drugs and the fast life and all the good things that money can buy. He's crashed and burned four times in 10 years and it's obvious he can't save himself. I wanted to take a guy like that and sort of follow him on a kind of spiritual journey, his quest for a spiritual cure. ... I was challenged by the goal of seeing if I could make such a spiritual journey work in a popular novel, in commercial fiction."

This Christmas, I encourage each of us to make a spiritual journey that goes far beyond Christmas Commercialization. May this Christmas be an encounter with the humble manger.

The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Spiritual Banquet in Victoria BC

Dear friends in Christ,

We just received pictures from the memorable Victoria Renewal Mission in which almost 120 people spent three days learning about and taking part in Jesus' healing ministry. The Oct 26th to 28th Weekend was also the 133rd Anniversary of the birth of Church of our Lord Victoria (Reformed Episcopal) when they were tragically ejected as a congregation from Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria. Eighty percent of the congregation, including Dean Cridge, walked together to form a vibrant new fellowship.

Their tradition is to hold a banquet each anniversary. This year they decided to host a spiritual banquet to go with the physical banquet. After five years of physical renovations, the Rev Rod Ellis and COOL decided that it was time for spiritual renovations as well. Click to view pictures from the Spiritual Banquet.

The Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Coalition in Canada are Common Cause Partners

We focused on the theme: 'Healing the Whole Person' from the Gospel of Luke.

Feel free to click on the following weblink to hear the final Renewal Mission message from Luke 10:1-24,2007-Trampling_Upon_Snakes_and_Scorpions.MP3

Every Blessings,
Ed Hird and St. Simon's NV Renewal Mission team